Narcissistic or sociopathic abuse is a horrible thing to experience, and one of the first things people want to know once coming out of it is to how to make sure we never have to go through this again. But it’s a sad fact that lots of narcissistic abuse survivors do go through the same thing again, despite promising themselves they wouldn’t.
Narcissistic abuse causes such specific damage to people psychologically, that it needs very specific and targeted work to properly undo. And if it isn’t properly undone, you will remain vulnerable to it happening again. How can we stop narcissistic abuse occurring again in our lives.
That’s what we’re going to cover in this guide., giving 4 very broad, over-arching principles and core issues to work on that if done diligently, should prevent narcissistic abuse ever happening again.
In very broad terms, preventing narcissistic abuse happening again involves sufficiently upgrading your understanding of pathological personalities, and fully regaining your confidence in your own perception so it cannot be messed with again by narcissistic or sociopathic personality tyres.
But even this is a very general summary – let’s dive in more detail into four core recovery areas to stop this ever happening again.
Step #1 – Upgrade Your Understanding Of Cluster B Personalities
This is a really foundational step that needs to be taken to stop narcissistic/Cluster B abuse happening again. Many of the victims of this were previously too naive in their views of others and the world, believing all people to basically be good and have good intentions.
Narcissistic abuse can be a rude awakening from these assumptions, and it’s important to read up on, and become a mini expert on, the Cluster B disorders in general (particularly Anti-social personality disorder – AKA psychopathy, and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). This includes:
- How these personality disorders are thought to come about and be created in people (intense, prolonged, immersive childhood trauma)
- The “death of the real self” that occurs in these people because of this trauma, and the implications you need to draw from this (there is no person in there you can ever “reach”, or get to change). The removal or any “fixer” or “saver” mindset.
- The fact these disorders are built on the twin defenses of denial and projection.
- The fundamentally manipulative, deceitful and insincere nature of people with these disorders.
- The low/zero empathy, goal orientated, power and control fixated nature of these personalities, and how this reflects on how they behave and treat others.
- The common abuse patterns these people engage in (gas-lighting, blame shifting, toxic verbal and non verbal abuse, blame shifting, lying, word salad etc.)
- Once all these insights click, learn that it is a waste of time to engage with, or try to change, these people. You instead stop arguing, dis-engage and preserve your own energy and sanity.
“You must abandon all sincerity when communicating with the terminally insincere”
In this case, I don’t think listing a huge bunch of different resources will help – people just want a few simple resources they can dive into and keep going back to to keep upgrading their understanding on this topic.
Here’s a few of those:
- Richard Grannon YouTube channel – Has loads of great useful info, insights and actionable tips for free. Binge watching this channel will make you very literate on narcissistic abuse.
- Dr Ramani YouTube channel – Another great resources with a different style. Again full of informative videos that will make you a mini-expert if you binge watch them.
- Narcissistic Abuse Seminar (2015) – A fantastic resource from a 2015 London conference Richard Grannon held, with around 8 hours of material. It’s a great overview of the narcissistic personality, how it forms, how it operates and how to resolve people-pleaser tendencies and recover from abuse, all in one. I continually go back to this resource because it’s so valuable (referral link).
However, it’s very important when consuming content on narcissists, narcissistic abuse, sociopaths etc, it’s important to strike the correct balance and not go too far in either direction:
- Extreme #1 – Just dipping your toe in this content, upgrading your understanding only a little bit, and then thinking you’re “fine” (my mistake – narcissistic abuse highly likely to happen again).
- Extreme #2 – Spending 5, 10, 15 years on narcissism forums, obsessively drilling down into the minutiae of personality disorders, abuse patterns etc, but never moving forward past the abuse and actually developing your own growth paths, new purposes and vocations etc.
Find some kind of balance between these two extremes where you do become a mini-expert on this topic, but also at some point let it go and move on, once you’re confident your knowledge base means you’d never let the same thing happen again.
Step #2 – Undo The Effects Of Gaslighting
There’s lot of things one can do in recovery, but specifically to stop narcissistic abuse happening again, it’s very important to fully (not just a little bit, but fully) reverse and undo the effects of any gas-lighting that are prevalent in narcissistic abuse.
If you don’t properly or fully do this, you’ll still be vulnerable or “primed” to be gas-lit all over again if you come into contact with another disordered person (they instinctively sniff out vulnerable, naturally self doubting, self blaming people, so this vulnerability needs resolving).
Here are some more specific suggested steps to do this:
- Pick apart the sick inversion of reality or “upside-down-ness” that being around narcissistic or sociopathic people can instil in victims, as they’ve been toxically taught by the person to believe that “up is down, down is up” and generally had their perceptions and expectations totally warped and distorted.
- Learn to trust the reality of their own perceptions again, and develop and ability to know, have faith in, champion and if necessary, defend their point of view and perception of reality.
- Learn to know when they are being gas-lit again, very quickly spotting the signs and very quickly disengage or develop a “boundaries up” approach when ever encountering people that gas-light again in the world.
- Not fall into self doubt or indecision loops if gas-lighting ever shows up in their interactions again, playing out the same “caught-up-ness” all over again when around a toxic person (cognitive dissonance is also a terms that applies here). Learn to clearly see right away when someone is gas-lighting or otherwise abusing you.
- The longer the gas-lighting was going on in the narcissistic abuse, the more work that will likely be needed to fully reverse and undo it.
As far as how to do this, this is work best done with a suitable, high quality therapist. In terms of books, the Gas-lighting Recovery Workbook by Amy Macoy Marlow is an excellent resource to work through on your own or with a therapist – see our resources page for a link.
But it’s very important to fully regain confidence in your own perception again, or you’ll be vulnerable to repeating patterns of narcissistic abuse if another one of these people enters your life.
Step #3 – Work On Boundary & Co-dependency Issues
This is a huge core issue that’s almost always present by definition in people that continued to tolerate narcissistic abuse for a prolonged time – some kind of issue with boundaries, co-dependency or people pleasing tendencies. A neuro-typical with “good enough” boundaries wouldn’t tolerate a narcissist/sociopath’s nonsense – they’d just tell them to get lost very quickly.
Some common traits of co-dependents/people pleasers are that they:
- Are typically good natured but weak boundaried, with a weak sense of self, who struggle to know who they are.
- Struggles to adequately set boundaries, say no and shut down unacceptable behavior.
- Often prone to self doubt, worry, anxiety and handing their power over to others.
- Struggle to formulate firm principles on things, and then stick to their principles consistently.
- Struggle to properly make decisions.
- Very easily hand their power over to others, especially “authority figures”.
- Tolerate unacceptable or unsatisfactory situations and behaviors from others.
- Struggle to stand up for themselves, especially if that means sticking to your own convictions and disagreeing with an authority figure.
- Struggle to see unacceptable behavior (transgressions of their boundaries) for what they are and call it out right away.
It goes without saying that anyone with these traits, even if get out of one narcissistically abusive relationship, will be very prone to entering another one and repeating the same patterns all over again if they don’t resolve these issues.
Co-dependency and boundary issues need to be worked through with a competent therapist who understands these issues very well.
Also, one key insight that’s often lacking in co-dependents is the realization that setting a boundary often means suffering a consequence (whether that’s the short term inconvenience of leaving a relationship/job/house etc, or something else). Co-dependents have to learn to not just set boundaries when needed, but suffer and deal with the consequences of doing so, even if it means there’s some kind of (often temporary and short term) inconvenience and price to pay for doing so.
We’ve got a Boundaries section on our resources page with some books on the issue, but the core work usually needs doing with a therapist.
Also, another way of looking at this issue of boundaries is to see it as developing (or re-developing) your moral philosophy (standards, principles, ethics, lines in the sand). This channel will help you do that with some simple journal exercises. Put some serious time in to decide within yourself what is good, what is bad, what is acceptable, what is unacceptable, and be sure to stick to these principles once formed. If you do, you won’t tolerate another Cluster B disordered individual wriggling into your life trying to erode your boundaries and moral philosophy all over again (like they always do). You’ll show them the door.
Step #4 – Understand & Dissolve The Repetition Compulsion
This is often something that’s actually driven more by things from the victim’s past rather than the abuser specifically. In psychology, the repetition compulsion refers to a person’s tendency to continually repeat a traumatic event or circumstances, often with people who in some way mimic or resemble the people who inflicted the initial trauma.
It’s a major factor in why some people find themselves continually drawn to toxic people, relationships or scenarios, and seem to keep playing out the same “scripts” over and over again in their lives. This can include always seeming to attract or be attracted to, personality disordered people like narcissists and psychopaths.
There’s sometimes a very strong unconscious “pull” or “force” that’s driving people to do this, to try and resolve something which happened in the past (often childhood) by in some way symbolically repeating it.
The Invisible Emotional Wounds That Leave Us Open To Abuse
This often extends to continually drawing in narcissistic people in particular, because one or more original care-giver was also narcissistic or displayed other Cluster B traits. There can be a very strong drive to draw in symbolically similar people to try and resolve traumas that remain unresolved from toxic/abusive parenting patterns and scenarios.
But Cluster B disordered individuals, by definition, cannot ever provide the love/nurturing/empathy that wasn’t there before, because they’re incapable of these things themselves. In many ways, getting caught in a Cluster B repetition compulsion is one of the worst, because it literally can never be resolved with these individuals.
Therefore, these issues need working through with a therapist, to prevent from repeating the same pattern. Not over and over again in the outside world with a pathological personality who’s just going to exploit these weaknesses such as insecure attachment, and toy with you for their own amusement.